Gender, What It Is, and What It Means, and Where It Will Take Us

The difference between men and women is one made distinctly by nature, by genetics. Sex is the term given to the differences that naturally occur between men and women. Gender, on the other hand, is a social name that is given to a person, for the most part, upon birth. The definition of gender has changed through time; definition meaning the social expectations that are expected of men and women have changed through time. Expectations of older cultures give way to insight as to why modern expectations of men and women may not be healthy.

The term gender is not one that originated along with sex; gender is a name given to each individual by society, and up for the individual to decide for themselves once old enough. The term gender describes the roles that a given sex is supposed to take, like the idea that the male must be the supporter, the women are to be the caretakers of the household. Within the research provided by the book Busier Than Ever! By Charles M. Darrah, it is observed, “While Martin Klein was juggling tasks as his workplace changed corporate hands, his wife Debbie Carson was awash in health-related choices managing her family’s daycare (60).” Gender is instituted upon us by birth, differentiating male and female by denoting the difference with a pink or blue blanket. As we grow older, gender roles are rarely taught to the other sex, as when boys grow up, they are influenced by their fathers to play some sort of sport and do the outside chores, and the girls are taught to cook and generally do more work inside of the house, which results in the idea that men must provide for a family, and the woman is therefore required to offer support and strength from the homefront. This system of belief is fairly new to the world, as gender roles in earlier civilizations were very much blended, with men and women sharing many of the child bearing and hunting-gathering duties. The idea of gender is not one originating from sex, it is determined by society, by structure.

Not only does gender come along with social values, but it comes with sexual values as well. Modernly, women tend to be looked down upon by the majority if they are actively and openly sexual, having more than one or two partners; women were, and still are, generally wanted to be pure or a virgin. Men, for the most part, are exempt from this way of thinking, rather, most parents take pride in a son that attracts all sorts of women; fathers teach their sons that it is acceptable to have sex with all of the women that he can, women do not tend to receive such instruction. Parents would much rather their daughter’s abstain from sex, as to preserve the image of the innocent daughter that they have. However, it is realized that despite all of their efforts, the fathers can teach their sons to get all of the women they want, but the sons cannot get all of the women if the women are abstaining! The double standard does not work, all it does is provide grounds for dishonesty, as the girls and boys, when they become teenagers, will do all that they can to go behind their parents back to do whatever so pleases them. If the standard does not work, then why do we follow it? How do families handle these problems, the ones that are so common to the nuclear family? If older cultures had different ideas of how to work sex, marriage, and gender, then why do we live in a society that blocks basic human desires, sensors the human body, and gives us roles to fill from birth? What a way to live.

The idea of gender is one that keeps people working away, within their own social parameters. “Meaning is essentially about assimilating new information and experiencing it vis-à-vis what we already believe we know. The making of meaning is not only solitary but also social, and it takes time to coalesce. The modular vision focuses attention on flexibility, contingency, transience, and the superficial (Darrah, 122).” In terms of gender, the meaning that is derived from our particular behaviors and social expectations create a dissonance between what is expected and what is desired. As parents, it is expected that children be responsible for their sexuality, meaning that they are expected to abstain, so that there is no reason that they do not go to school, that they do not get an education, a job that allows them to perform to their best ability, so that they can be the greatest they are meant to be. The expectation for success exists, if it is not the expectation, then it is at least the hope that their children will have the best future possible.

Thinking about our children (albeit not a bad thing) has influenced the structure of our society; by creating the need for a higher education, influenced by the idea that a degree will earn a better job and higher pay, with benefits that create a life of ease, we have created a society that competes for education, giving business the upper hand. By supporting such a system, men compete and women compete even harder, leaving there little room for a family life, throwing back to the idea that men and women are meant to do their own thing, that the idea of a nuclear family is not supported. Women taking what is theirs and working for a respect that is on the same level as a man’s means that there is a decline in the family life that has for some reason become so valued in American society, which has influenced much of the rest of the world. Older cultures, such as the American Indian tribes of the Navajo and Mosuo, show that feminine power was a force; Navajo women were given sexual freedom by only allowing marriage to be for status terms, and for giving a strong name for the continuation of their lineage, which is the same power that the men had.

By relating the idea from the Navajo that men and women had equal choice in their sexual activities, marriage, and lineage to the fact that American nuclear families are now beginning to fail as women become to work as men once again, the ideals are failing, and it is not a bad thing; it is human nature. This realization just shows that society can be influenced by ideals over instinct, yet instinct will inevitably give way to nature. I firmly believe that men and women, across cultures and ethnicities, will be equal once again.

by Christopher DeRuyter

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